Yoga | Find alignment on and off the mat

Namasté, beautiful soul!

It is a path for seekers.
A path towards balance and alignment.
It is the gateway towards your Self: Yoga.

I’m very pleased to talk about yoga again. Well, you may ask yourself why I’m so passionate about this ancient subject?

Let me tell you this from my experience: A regular practice of yoga may enable you to create a clear, focused, calm, and stable mind. This is actually what most of us are missing, and sub-consciously yearning for so deeply: peace inside and further peace with everyone around. The ultimate purpose of yoga intends to this goal as it supports you in shedding all the layers of conditions and beliefs from your mind. Then, you are able to realize the true Self, your real nature. Yoga has the potential to open new doors in your life. For most people it starts on the mat, but very often it does not end there. The asanas (physical practice) are usually an introduction to the giant realm of yoga, just one piece of the entire puzzle. Maybe you’ve already experienced a tiny or even deeper glimpse of consciousness (in a yoga class?):

  • Feeling the prana energy flowing through you during the practice?
  • Sitting in silence and peace, feeling happy with no specific reason?
  • Experiencing a clear and focused mind after your practice?

Such experiences may evoke the desire to continue this magical “workout” as it addresses not only your body, but mind and spirit as well.

“The most important pieces of equipment you need for doing yoga are
your body and your mind.“

(Rodney Yee)

Sadhana is the term for a (spiritual) practice or discipline. In Sanskrit, it refers to a process you put effort into while striving towards the achievement of a purpose. Sadhana means you commit to your regular or daily spiritual practice (yoga asanas, meditation, chanting, prayer). You can also understand it as an act of self-love by empowering yourself for life. It means taking time to connect with the subtle parts of yourself, to feel inside, and to come into a state of higher awareness. Ultimately, you raise your vibration and as you feel more connected to yourself, you will be able to handle life in an easier way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

~ The practice of yoga ~


Let’s begin with a few words from my personal experience: My yoga journey started in a physical way. However, it didn’t take me long to experience that there is more behind the simple practice of movements. I absolutely love moving my body, play with it, communicate with and listen to it. The asana practice guided me towards a life with more awareness. Although I didn’t know anything about Sadhana back then, I naturally started a regular practice: showing up on my mat, moving my body, breathing consciously, and sitting in stillness. Yoga gives me the opportunity to connect with my body, to reduce the fluctuations of my mind, and to open my heart. You can perceive it as a holistic practice which holds your hand and guides you through life.

One of my teaching schools defines yoga as “fitness for the witness”, as getting from alignment to enlightenment. Being a witness means to observe in a state of passive awareness, ultimately, it is the state of meditation. Yoga asanas (physical practice) supports you on that journey to become a witness, they will guide you inwards. It starts from the gross material level and leads you deeper into more subtle areas. Body, breath, a focused mind, stillness, bliss, pure consciousness. Everything is connected. If you rest inside, alignment happens organically.

What usually holds us back from this flow (aligned) state of being is the loud voice in our heads. The egoic mind is constantly chattering, confusing us incessantly. Thoughts that come from our conditions, from the external. We easily identify with these thoughts and the feelings it brings forth. We usually become a victim of our mind, of what’s going on in the head. We suppress unpleasant thoughts and feelings, we try to push them away, we react with resistance. However, you will only be able to let go of them if you face them. The only way out is through.

Don’t resist. Don’t fight.
Tame your mind in a loving way.
This is what yoga will teach you.

The practitioner benefits from yoga in many different ways:

  • It strengthens and tones the body, builds muscles.
  • It supports flexibility.
  • It works on the nervous system in a harmonizing way.
  • It supports the metabolism and immune system.
  • It decreases mental issues as it calms the mind.
  • It increases your body awareness, and further your awareness in/for life itself.

As it changes your body, it changes the way you feel. Yoga opens the body as well as the mind. By focusing on your breath, you bridge the gap between body and mind. Remember:

“Your mind is in every cell of your body.”
(Candace Pert)

As you learn to observe yourself on the mat, you automatically will become an observer of your daily life. It has a ripple effect. When you’re able to observe something, you are less involved in it, less identified with it. The awareness expands as you take some distance from the thoughts in your brain and connect with the heart. Slowly, the sense of disconnection dissolves. The deep pain of disconnection only occurs by the identification with your brain (thoughts). Yoga loosens this rigid thought pattern …

 

 

 

 

 

~ Yoga alignment on the mat ~


What makes yoga so unique and sets it apart from other physical exercises is its focus on awareness, on the breath as it combines the body with the mind. Yoga is neither goal-oriented nor competitive. Quality of movement is superior to quantity. That’s actually where alignment comes into play.

Beside the definition of alignment in terms of bringing body, mind, and spirit in a state of congruency, the term is also used for the physical practice on the mat. Alignment means to practice any given pose in a precise way so that you maximize its benefits and at the same time reduce the risk of injury. Anyone can practice yoga on the mat, what’s important is to pay attention to your individual (physical and mental) condition.

“So whether you do your first downward dog at 14 or 44,
it’s not your history but your presence on your mat that counts.”
(Pattabhi Jois)

During my 300 hrs YTTC in Goa, we strongly focused on alignment as the school taught Ashtanga Vinyasa in combination with Iyengar Yoga. B.K.S. Iyengar was the founder of this yoga style in which proper alignment of the postures by the support of props (blocks, belts, etc.) is the centre of interest. It is not the goal to pose like any social media “yogi” and to you bend or twist your body in order to look fancy. If you don’t accept your body’s current condition, yoga can become even dangerous. Appreciate your body for what it is able to achieve right now. You will evolve through your practice organically, but don’t push or force yourself in any way. Rather ask yourself: Am I breathing in the pose? How does my body feel today? Honor your body’s skills and respect its limitations. You will come to whatever you want to achieve. Just be patient. But commit to your Sadhana.

It is helpful to practice with the support of a teacher, not only to grow in your practice, but also to learn proper alignment. Your muscles will memorize how to practice asanas in a healthy, supportive way in order to benefit from the poses completely.

 

 

 

 

 

~ Practice yoga off the mat ~


Ashtanga yoga (eight fold path) consists of eight limbs which sum up the holistic practice of yoga. This path points out that yoga is rather a way of living and being, not (only) another kind of physical activity.

We usually start practicing yoga physically with asanas, combined with pranayama (breath techniques). This is the easiest way to start as it is very tangible, we can easily connect to the breath and move our bodies. By unifying the breath (spirit) with movements, we instantly connect body, mind, and spirit as the breath is like a bridge between body and mind. One thing leads to the next in a natural flow.

The first two limbs of Asthanga yoga are ethical guiding principles which go hand in hand with a yogi’s lifestyle. You can practice the so-called yamas and nyamas consciously in your day to day life. Pick one (e.g. ahimsa = non-violence) and try to apply it wherever you can in life. Ahimsa, for example, is closely linked to food choices as it points out non-violence, not harming any living being on earth as well as the planet itself. In which way do your food choices impact living creatures and nature? Not only when it comes to food choices, but do we cultivate compassion, kindness, and love in our day to day life?

“Every act of love and kindness raises the vibration of the entire universe.”

A dedicated practice of yoga increases inevitably your vibration, enhances your awareness, and allows you to see the external world from a different perspective as you grow internally. When life gets challenging, you will handle these situations with more ease, awareness, and you’ll be able to choose consciously how you are using your energy instead of reacting unconsciously to whatever happens “to” you. Through the breath in the asana practice you’re connected to the present moment where you are relaxed, because your mind takes a rest. If you stick to your practice, it will become easier to expand your awareness and apply it in your day to day life. Whatever might come up, you will be able to deal with it more peacefully.

In a deeper sense you can say that practicing yoga is a commitment to consciousness. I personally can tell: At a certain point of my practice, everything that does not match my deep-rooted values falls away organically. I sense from the inside out what aligns with my body, my feelings, and what does not (anymore). The alignment expresses itself more and more natural. It is a moment to moment practice, not an end goal you once reach. You will feel more aligned on one day than another, but on the long run the direction points towards alignment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

~ Conclusion: Find your center with yoga ~


Yoga has the potential to (slowly) break the layers of identification that we’ve gathered throughout our lives. Behind the conditioned persona lies the presence of our true nature, pure consciousness. Yoga breaks the repetitive cycles of compulsiveness, the unconscious hamster wheel we are all trapped inside to a certain degree. Yoga evokes curiosity within you and gives you a certain level of freedom. Ultimately, it releases you. Through this relief, you are able to tap into a state of alignment (again). It unifies or connects body and mind with the heart.

On the mat, you’re deeply connected to yourself; you practice love, compassion, and basically what the ethical principles yamas and nyamas from the eight-fold path say. However, the practice does not stop on the mat: Now, as you go back to your daily life, you will start to apply the practice to any given situation. You probably know that when you have compassion for yourself, you’ll be easily able to express compassion towards others. You can learn a lot about yourself on the mat. Take whatever you’ve acquired in your Sadhana and express it. Trust yourself. This is a more authentic, truthful, confident, and aligned part of You. The world will be enriched to an indescribable degree with this exact version of yourself!

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
(Oscar Wilde)

When you start integrating your heart and mind into your actions, you are in alignment. Your Sadhana will guide you to this state. Be patient. Be gentle with yourself. Yet, stick to your practice.

Lots of love and Namasté,

yours Isabel!

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Holistic Nutrition

Let’s be good to the body so that the soul enjoys living in it.
(Theresa von Ávila)

Isabel Maria

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.
(Oscar Wilde)

Yoga & Meditation

“Yoga is the perfect opportunity to be curious about who you are.”
(Jason Crandell)